The most powerful thing you can do to improve as a leader is to work directly on your own leadership skill set. It is not working on the people on your team, not setting goals and targets, not prioritizing and optimizing … it is working on yourself as a person and a leader.
Most of the prevailing ideas we all have about management and leadership are rooted in the one overriding concept that good managers and leaders are effective because they know how to get people to do the things for the company, division, department, or district to succeed. When we begin to call ourselves “managers” or “leaders,” we should automatically begin to define ourselves by the impact we have on others.
It’s certainly true that a manager who can effectively organize and measure people’s efforts and activities will be seen as a successful manager. Because of this truth, the impact of “working on yourself” is often lost or under-emphasized. Most of the current information and training on management miss this most powerful and reliable way to improve your results. The idea of working on yourself as a growth strategy is not often discussed.
Working on yourself means purposely doing and learning things that will make you a better leader/manager/person. Most of the really classic business literature is intensely focused on this idea, but sadly, self-improvement has left the business section of the bookstore and re-rooted itself in the pop psychology aisle.
Why has this shift happened? As managers, we simply prefer to think that big improvements will come from other people changing rather than thinking that we can (and should) grow ourselves to earn these business gains. Another reason may be that we forget that we are the constants in our business. There’s going to be considerable change and churn in most of today’s organizations.
When you’re managing in the white water, you’ll usually do best by managing the constants, starting with yourself. A valuable core belief would be to expect bigger outcomes, bigger opportunities, bigger leverage points, and bigger possibilities if we focus on becoming bigger people. Over time, we can actually increase the capacity to lead. Capacity is not changed easily, but when capacity increases, a leader has every right to expect more success for himself and his team.